Archive for the ‘house of representatives’ tag
I have often contended that, in studying politics, one must only follow the money to discover the motivations of such and such politician in proposing such and such bill.
Exhibit A: Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (Kentucky) this week proposed a bill, swiftly refuted by Democrats, that George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the rich be continued indefinitely.
According to this New York Times story, McConnell recently had this to say on the floor of the Senate: “Democrats spent the last two years putting government in charge of health care, the financial sector, car companies, insurance companies, student loans — you name it. Now they want the tax hike to pay for it all.”
Put it like that and you might say Democrats have ushered in a new era of socialism, but alas, so go the usual sad and tired refrains.
But let’s have a look at where McConnell’s own interests lie and then draw some conclusions of our own.
OpenSecrets.org reports that McConnell’s top contributors between 2005-2010 have been Kindred Healthcare ($108,200), UBS AG (A global financial services company at $98,450), Elliott Management (An investment company, $88,500), Peabody Energy ($73,600) and Citigroup ($66,100).
Since McConnell’s largest contributor is part of the health care industry, it makes sense that his first nod in the above quote is, indeed, to the government taking a larger role in health care. He’s wrong, of course, since the government isn’t being put “in charge of health care,” but helping people pay for their health care by private providers with public money. This, as it happens, already occurs, and has for years, through programs like Medicaid and Social Security. Thus, conservative angst against the health care bill breaks against itself. We already use public money to provide free health care to certain members of our populace. Why not everyone? McConnell drives a hard case against finding a way to make sure every person in this nation is taken care of.
The one pleasant surprise on the issue of letting the tax cuts for the rich expire is the case of House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio. I have been quite critical of him in the past. But I have to commend the man in this instance for at least saying he would vote for President Obama’s plan to extend the cuts only for households earning less than $250,000 if he had no other choice, even if it was, to some degree, forced.
Winning a war by attrition is better than ceding the war altogether in some cases. So, even if Boehner isn’t necessarily interested in helping working class folks, at least he seems to have given a nod to such an idea, although his associations with wealthy interests speaks for itself.
The Associated Press yesterday reported that the House of Representatives passed 237-170 a $14 billion bailout package for the ailing car industry, which, interestingly, amounts to $4 billion less than what GM was requesting by itself and a whopping $ 11 billion less than what all three were seeking together.
Senate Republicans (and some Democrats) are expected to fight for the bill’s defeat based on the grounds that the automakers should be allowed to go under bankruptcy protection and then restructure from that point or face “hefty concessions” as a condition of federal help, according to the AP. This latter plan would on the surface sound viable to me, except for the fact that the situation at this juncture is so dire. Can we really allow the automakers to fall into bankruptcy, thus taking a chance that the market will still find favor and help the industry thrive again once the self-admission is made that economically, they are in the toilet? Can we take the chance that the general public will still want to buy Fords, Chryslers and GMs, knowing that those companies have tanked and may or may not be able to fulfill warranty and service agreements? Will the general public want to purchase cars from companies that may, in a matter of months, be defunct? I’m not so sure. One only has to take a cursory look at Wall Street from day to day to know how fickle the market is. As I pointed out previously, the Big Three’s market shares are just barely teetering above the surface. Forcing them into bankruptcy just may be the death knell.
Of course, if Republicans and some Dems are right, I’m all for pushing them into bankruptcy. Part of me thinks the higher-ups deserve what they get (But certainly the workers and the everyday folks deserve the opposite) for their faulty decision-making and failure to make the highest quality cars possible. But I don’t think opposing lawmakers are right, and perception is all we need to prove why. Bankruptcy has, and this is probably an understatement, a negative connotation to most in this country. While the Tribune Co., which owns the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, recently declared bankruptcy and will continue to operate as normal for now, few in the general public see it this way. The general public, I would argue, sees bankruptcy, not as a government protective measure, but the death knell itself, a final round of “Taps.”
The House-passed bill also includes provisions for a so-called “car czar,” unfortunately named, that would reside over the distribution of the loans and make sure the automakers were playing by the pre-determined rules.
Perhaps the most perplexing part of the plan is “an unrelated pay raise for federal judges.” Say what? How does that relate to the auto industry crisis? I’ve often wondered this about a lot of legislation that comes up for vote. Proposed bills are often littered with extraneous, unnecessary, and worse, unrelated material. This is one of those instances. It’s as if lawmakers take the roles of poor storytellers. They sit down to write a bill with a clear plot or topic in mind (Say, one that provides assistance to ailing automakers) and somewhere in the process, they slip a disc and get off track. Here is that portion of the text from the bill on judges located in Section 19(c) of the bill:
(c) AUTHORIZATION OF FISCAL YEAR 2009 COST OF
5 LIVING SALARY ADJUSTMENT FOR JUSTICES AND
6 JUDGES.—Pursuant to section 140 of Public Law 97–92,
7 justices and judges of the United States are authorized
8 during fiscal year 2009 to receive a salary adjustment in
9 accordance with section 461 of title 28, United States
That’s all well and good, but couldn’t this have appeared in a separate bill? Even the AP admitted that it was “unrelated” to the issue at hand.
Regardless, the Senate could possibly take up a vote as early as later today and have this thing pushed through, completed with unrelated language, by the end of the week. Still, as much as I loathed seeing our friend Rick Wagoner and Co. blast into Washington in their private, luxury jets, and seemingly reformed, in hybrids they didn’t pay for weeks later, this, I’m afraid is necessary if we don’t want to find ourselves on a downward slope from a recession to a depression. We can only hope the auto execs or the boards they represent have the wherewithal to get their formally inadequate operations turned around, no matter the cost to executive egos. The workers and the economy they help prop up are largely dependent on it. If huge companies are allowed to grow to nearly unregulated proportions (as we in this country allow them to do), they should be willing to go through a self-evaluation, take responsibility, clean house managerially or whatever else needs to be done to right the ship.